When R A Gilbert was looking at the Golden Dawn Members’ Roll preparing the list of members for his book The Golden Dawn Companion, several people’s handwriting - squeezed into the small space available - gave him trouble. He decided that one member who joined the GD in 1900 was named Archibald Cameron Cresswell Keppel. I spent quite a lot of time searching for this person and coming up with nothing and eventually, in desperation, I tried arranging his names in a different order. I can now say that man’s correct name was Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell. He was initiated into the GD’s Isis-Urania Temple on 29 November 1900 and took the Latin motto ‘Sic itur ad astra’. Unlike with Archibald Cameron Cresswell Keppel, the web had plenty of information on Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell. In his profession, although not particularly in this country, he turned out to be very well-known indeed. I have leaned very heavily in this short account of his life on R W Hamilton’s
Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell 1879-1974, published by the British Academy in 1975. However, Hamilton had not done a great deal of work on his subject’s early life.
In 1878 Keppel Creswell, from a Nottinghamshire family but working in the City of London, married Margaret Henderson, the daughter of a solicitor. Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell, their elder child, was born in London in 1879 and named after his father though he was always known as Archie.
In 1881 Archie’s father was working as an underwriter. Until 1892 he was employed at Baring Brothers and Company’s bank, in their insurance department, but in the wake of the run on Barings and the firm’s near-bankruptcy in 1890-91, he left, and went into partnership with his brother, Alfred Augustus Creswell, who was already in business as an insurance broker with offices at 28 Cornhill. The new firm was called A A Creswell and Company and it was still in business in the 1920s. Alfred Augustus Creswell was already a member of Lloyds Register, which listed firms which insured shipping. Keppel Creswell joined the Register around 1905.
The Creswells had moved into 12 Regent’s Park Road in north London by 1881 and Archie’s parents were still living there in 1911; in my researches on the GD members I’ve discovered that living so long in one house was rare amongst them. The family was a small one - Archie’s only sibling was Margery, born in 1881. They were the only household at the address but the household was a modest one. In 1881 the Creswells employed one general servant and a nurse; in 1901 their only employee was a housemaid - meaning, I think, that Archie’s mother did a great deal of the housework herself helped, as she grew older, by Margery.
Margaret Creswell was a Roman Catholic. However, Archie was given a Church of England-based education and - according to people who knew him later in life - did not have any strong religious views. Archie was at Westminster School from 1891-96. There he showed an aptitude for maths, especially geometry; though he also won prizes for English. On leaving school he studied the new subject of electrical engineering at the City and Guilds Technical College at Finsbury and worked for several years for Siemens before changing career to become a clerk at the Bank of England, where he was in 1901, still living at home. By 1914 he was working, again as a clerk, for the Deutsche Bank in its London office.
Archie became a member of the Golden Dawn at a time during a difficult period for the Order - it was not a good time to begin your studies in magic with the GD. A very junior member and aged only 21 when he was initiated, Archie took no part in the debates that were tearing the GD apart. On the other hand, he wasn’t listed as a member of any of the daughter Orders that were set up in 1903. He did continue to investigate ancient Egyptian magic, but on his own, and published one article comparing Egyptian magical texts with the Kabbalah, in Occult Review.
R W Hamilton suggests that the foundations of Archie’s interest in Islamic architecture were laid while he was a childl: for his 12th birthday he was given a book with pictures of Middle Eastern buildings in it; and he also won a copy of George Rawlinson’s The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy. Archie himself later attribributed his passion for eastern culture to Rawlinson’s monumental work. He had several other interests: he was a good photographer; he was a fitness freak; and he was interested in the Kabbalah - finding his way into the GD as a result of it and also writing his first published work: A Comparison of the Hebrew Sephiroth with the Paut Neteru of Egypt, which appeared in Occult Review in 1912. However, by 1914 his interest in Islamic architecture was becoming his main focus. He had read Flinders Petrie’s Methods and Aims in Archaeology (published 1904), a reference work for those doing survey work on ancient buildings, which (amongst other things) promoted the use of photographs to record architectural detail. He had started out on one of his life’s works - the compiling of a bibliography of all the existing works on Islamic architecture. And in May of that year he had applied for a job with the Archaeological Survey of India.
World War I prevented his job application from being taken up but sent his working life in a completely new direction. He doesn’t seem to have been one of those who volunteered to fight in 1914 or 1915, but he was called up in April 1916, after the first conscription acts became law and - no doubt due to his technical training - made a Lieutenant in the fledgling Royal Flying Corps. By 1918 he had been promoted to Captain. There’s some debate about exactly when he arrived in Egypt but all sources agree he was there by 1918. In the wake of the Armistice, Great Britain was handed Palestine to rule and Archie was given the job of Inspector of Monuments, Occupied Enemy Territory and asked to survey all the ancient monuments of Syria and Palestine. The survey occupied 1919 and 1920 and formed the basis for his academic career. Demobbed from the air force by 1922, he didn’t return to England, he stayed in Egypt and invented the academic discipline of the study of Islamic architecture.
In the course of the next 50 years or so Archie Creswell wrote many books on Islamic architecture, both academic tomes and guides for the interested tourist or art historian. However, the work on which his reputation rests is his Early Muslim Architecture, which he got King Fu’ad I of Egypt to fund, and which appeared in several exhaustive volumes between 1932 and 1940. His particular interest was the architecture built by members of the (Muslim) Fatimid dynasty which ruled Egypt from 969 to 1171; there are many splendid examples in Cairo.
In 1931 Archie was again called on by King Fu’ad, this time to establish a programme of study at the King Fu’ad University of Cairo. Although Archie did not have a university degree he was still the best qualified, by practical experience, to head this programme and he was appointed the university’s first professor of Islamic and Archaeology, a post he held until 1951 when he seems to have been sacked, or stormed off, for reasons that are still not clear. A hiatus followed, during which time (I think it was during this period) Archie spent some time at Princeton University, before being appointed to another professorship in Egypt in 1956, this time at the American University. 1956, of course, was the year of the Suez Crisis, during which anyone with English connections had a hard time in Egypt. Archie was all prepared to leave the country until he found he would not be allowed to take his books with him. The American University in Cairo stepped in to offer a home for the books, and Archie stayed on in Egypt. By this time he had been living outside the UK for over 30 years, and from some of accounts of his work, particularly those that have been written by Arabic scholars, I get the impression of a man forgetting that time had moved on: a man always impeccably dressed in a suit in the manner of a colonial official; hostile to Jews and to the policy of allowing West Indians into Britain (mind you, he wasn’t alone in having those attitudes); a man bellowing at the staff in restaurants when the food wasn’t good enough.
His work has also been criticised, for concentrating too much on the mathematical and design aspects of architecture and not considering the social and economic reasons why a building might have been designed like it was. His emphasis on chronology is now thought to be a rather limiting approach. And as did not learn to read Arabic he was unable to study some original texts. I do feel that some of these criticisms are rather harsh - after all, the man was inventing an entire new academic subject. And all modern scholars seem to agree that Archie’s body of work will be the classic texts on their subject for some time to come.
Riding out the difficult times of Suez, Archie Creswell continued to live and work in Egypt until his failing health finally required him to have more nursing care. He returned to England in 1973 and died in Twyford Abbey Nursing Home in Acton, west London, on 8 April 1974.
BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.
Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert. Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986. Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914. The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation. All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.
Family history: freebmd; ancestry.co.uk (census and probate); findmypast.co.uk; familysearch; Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families; thepeerage.com; and a wide variety of family trees on the web.
Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.
Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.
Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources. I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.
Archie Creswell’s father KEPPEL CRESWELL
Seen via the Times Digital Archive: Times Monday 1 February 1892 p11b in The Money Market column: a reference to Keppel Creswell, describing him as “late manager of Messrs Baring Brothers and Co’s insurance department”. Creswell had now gone into partnership with his brother A A Creswell of 28 Cornhill. A A Creswell was an insurance broker. The partnership would be known as A A Creswell and Co.
Some information from Wikipedia on the run on Baring Brothers: Wikipedia says that the bank had got over-exposed in the 1880s to debt incurred by the governments of Uruguay and Argentina. In 1890 there was a financial crisis in Argentina during which its government fell and the nation nearly defaulted. What’s often referred to as the Panic of 1890 and which involved the run on Barings began during Novemver 1890; the bank had to be rescued by a consortium led by the Bank of England. The bank was turned into a limited company; the Baring brothers lost their partnerships and their personal fortunes. The Bank did pay its debts - it took 10 years - but has never been the same since.
Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping volume 2 1898 p769 list of annual subscribers includes Alfred Augustus Creswell of A A Creswell and Co, with “Date of election 1879".
Lloyd’s Register of Shipping volume 2 1912 p986 has Keppel Creswell of A A Creswell and Co listed (which he wasn’t in 1898), with a date of election I couldn’t quite read on Google’s snippet; it might have been 1905.
The Post Magazine and Insurance Monitor volume 87 no 1 p28 issue of 2 January 1926, A A Creswell was still in exist then.
ARCHIE CRESWELL AND THE OCCULT
This is the only item I found. At www.austheos.org.au/indices/OCCREV.HTM there’s an index to articles published in Occult Review between 1905 and 1948; I searched to mid-1927 and found only one by Archie Creswell. Occult Review volume 16 1912, issue of December p49: Creswell’s A Comparison of the Hebrew Sephiroth with the Paut Neteru of Egypt.
ARCHIE CRESWELL AS A HISTORIAN OF ARCHITECTURE
The Isma’ilis: their History and Doctrines by Farhad Daftary 1992 p254 which descibes Archie as “the leading modern authority on the Fatimid monuments”. And a note from Wikipedia on what that means: the Fatimid Period refers to Egypt 969 to the death of the last Fatimid caliph in September 1171, so that it includes the early Crusades, Saladdin etc.
Modernism in the Middle East eds Sandy Isenstadt and Kishwar Rizvi 2008, p10.
Times Sat 13 April 1974 p24a death notices: K A C Creswell had d “on 8th April, 1974" at Twyford Abbey Nursing Home. And the obituary on p14f.
Who Was Who 1971-80 p183.
Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam AUTHOR. It gives a more personal account of Archie Creswell, who it describes as a small man, always impeccably dressed no matter what the circumstances or temperatures. He could not abide any form of cruelty: the author relates a tale of Archie’s determination to make the Cairo police arrest a man who was beating a donkey, leaping from his car and dislocating all the traffic. However it also says of him “To his last day, Creswell was unaware of the demise of the British Empire”. CBE 1955. Fellow British Academy. Gold medal Royal Asiatic Society. Knighted 1970.
Whose Pharoahs? By Donald M Reid 2003 p17.
My main source:
Muqarnas: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture Volume 8 is called K A C Creswell and His Legacy. Editor Prof Oleg Grabar of Harvard University. Published Leiden: E J Brill 1991
p128-133 biography of Creswell by R W Hamilton. Plus an editorial on the impact and legacy of Creswell p3 by Grabar as editor of this issue. Grabar praises Archie for being the first scholar to see how much the quality of the photographs taken mattered in this kind of survey work. Grabar first met Archie in 1953. He describes him as “feisty, opinionated, at times prejudiced”. His personality was such a strong one that it tends to come out even in the supposed neutrality of scholarly publications. However, he could be very kind to young scholars. Grabar actually sees Archie as quite a vulnerable character, and a very passionate one. P2 Archie’s emphasis on linear chronology now seen as a methodological flaw. However, the work that he did has still not been rendered obsolete by anything done since.
A note on the book by Rawlinson that Archie won as a school prize: George Rawlinson 1812-1902, Camden Professor of Ancient History, Oxford University 1861-89. The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy covers the Sassanian (also known as Sassanid) empire; published 1875, the last in a set on the ancient history of the Middle East. Just in case Archie read the others, the first 5 in the set were published between 1862 and 1867; the 6th covers the Parthian empire, published 1873. A footnote from Wikipedia: the Sassanid empire was the last pre-Islamic empire in the Middle East, 224-651AD, succeeding the Parthian Empire and of course it wasn’t in the Roman empire.
Cairo University and the Making of Modern Egypt by Donald Malcolm Reid 2002 p41 in a section noting that World War 1 “brought into the open the ties between orientalism and imperialism”. Creswell ended up in Egypt through his work with the Royal Flying Corps. He was University of Cairo Professor of Islamic Architecture from 1931 to 1951. Malcolm records that Creswell’s “contempt for Egyptian nationalism and his uncompromising imperialism were legendary”.
In a Sea of Knowledge: British Arabists of the 20th Century by Leslie J McLoughlin 2002 p62 describes Creswell as a very good example of an Arabist who fell by chance into this field of expertise. He was in France in 1916 with the newly-founded Royal Flying Corps and was transferred to Palestine in 1918.
However Architectural History vol 50 2007 p207 the article ‘C R Ashbee’s Jerusalem’ says Creswell had begun to study Muslim architecture in 1910. He was posted to Egypt in 1916 with the Royal Flying Corps. Both these books can’t be right
ARCHIE CRESWELL AS A PHOTOGRAPHER
Maadi 1904-1962: Society and History in a Cairo Suburb by Samir W Raafat. Published Cairo: The Palm Press 1994. P36 describes Creswell as a friend of one of Maadi’s most prominent residents, Mrs Henriette Devonshire. Creswell let her use photographs he had taken of the Maadi district to illustrate her book Rambles in Cairo. The book contained very detailed descriptions of Cairo’s Islamic buildings and a chronology of Islamic buildings in the city. P35 Henriette Devonshire was the wife of p36 barrister p35 Robert Devonshire 1870-1921; she was née Vulliamy, born in France, 1860-1949. She organised and led tours by horse and carriage of Islamic Cairo, showing tourists the Fatimid monuments; all tours began at 2.30pm at the Continental Savoy Hotel. P11 Maadi was a suburb of Cairo, p13 to the west of the railway line p18 developed by the Delta Land and Investment Company in years after 1905. A lot of European residents lived there.
Muqarnas: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture Volume 8 is called K A C Creswell and His Legacy. Editor Prof Oleg Grabar of Harvard University. Published Leiden: E J Brill 1991
P117 article on Archie’s library by Gloria Karnouk, who was its librarian at the time when this volume was being written. Karnouk says that Archie was influenced to make use of photography when doing field excavations by Flinders Petrie’s Methods and Aims in Archaeology, published 1904. In his Will Archie left all his photographs to the Library - about 1000 of them, but with no index!
Archie met Flinders Petrie:
Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology by Margaret S Drower. University of Wisconsin Press 1st edition 1985; this is from 2nd edition 1995. P348 their first meeting was in Cairo in late 1919 when Flinders Petrie and wife Hilda arrived for the digging season. Flinders Petrie was 86 but still going strong. Creswell met the Petries through mutual friends the Sobhy family. Drower describes Creswell as an “eccentric and delightful personality”.
Archie’s publications: the British Library has quite a few by him but these are the ones I saw mentioned most often in discussions of his work:
1932, 1940 Early Muslim Architecture in 2 volumes Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Part 1: the Ummayyads 622-675
Part 2: the early Abbasids 751-905
1958 A Short Account of Early Muslim Art Penguin Books; further editions 1968, 1989
1959 The Muslim Architecture of Egypt in 2 volumes Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Vol 1: Ikshids and Fatimids 939-1171
Vol 2: Ayyubids and early Bahrite Mamluks 1171-1326
1973 Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
And there are these as well:
1922 A Provisional Bibliography of Painting in Muhammadan Art. London: Reiach.
1924 A Provisional Bibliography of the Moslem Architecture of Syria and Palestine.
1926 The Evolution of the Minaret focusing on its history in Egypt. London: Burlington Magazine.
1952 Fortification in Islam Before AD1250. Reprinted from Proceedings of the British Academy volume 38.
1953 Problems in Islamic Art. New York: Art Bulletin.
Copyright SALLY DAVIS
14 July 2012